January 28, 2019, by John

Figuring out your passions

This is our last outfield exercise before we finish our mandatory two-year National Service (NS) in the army. I look into the stars, covered in mud, camouflage paint, and dirt. The socks within my boots are wet. Mosquitoes are buzzing around me, wondering if I will be a tasty meal. This looks like it’s going to be a long night.

I wonder about my next steps in life, as I prepare to move back into the ‘real’ world after completing NS in Singapore. I’m not sure what to do. There are so many options. How does one choose?

Perhaps you feel a little like this, as you prepare to leave the safe world of university to go into the working world. How do I choose?

  1. Look within, not outward.

When there are so many options around us, it is tempting to look at every option. The internet has made that easier. But looking at those options only make us more confused. Without a clear compass of where we want to go, we will only be dragged by what seems most attractive, rather than what we truly desire.

One way I have found helpful is to read career guidance books. One that I would definitely recommend is Bolles’ ‘What Color is Your Parachute’. Our libraries have many copies. It offers many practical exercises which have helped me to elucidate the unique nexus of my passions and my aptitudes.

  1. Ask ‘why’, not ‘what’ or ‘how’.

What job should I get? How do I get that job?

Why should I even get a job? That’s a more important question. A job ceases to be a job when you love it. You find it impossible to believe that people are paying you to do something you love.

During an internship, I had the opportunity to take the lift everyday with my fellow colleagues. I observed how many of them seemed to drag their feet to work, but were often excited when it was time to go home. Why did they put themselves through this? Then, I read Will Smith’s quote and suddenly, everything clicked.

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.

Will Smith

It made me realise that in future, I wouldn’t want to be chained to my job because of the bills or the lifestyle I wanted to have. I wanted to do it simply because I wanted to.

Don’t you?

So today, ask yourself – why do you even want a job? What does a job give you that being self-employed can’t? Better yet, ask yourself – why am I even here on this Earth? As existential as that sounds, many have tackled this question and emerged with useful answers. The Happy Student by Daniel Wong is a book that transformed my life and still continues to do so.

  1. Believe better is possible.

Whatever bad experiences you had with work, remember that better is possible. I remember spending two years in the army, lying in the jungle, getting bitten by mosquitoes, and thinking – when will this ever end? But after my exit from the army, I realised that they taught me invaluable skills such as discipline, leadership, and responsibility. Till this day, I still wake up and make my bed, folding my duvet and straightening my bedsheets.

Whatever bad experiences you might have had in the past regarding your jobs, why not look at it this way? They weren’t mistakes, but taught us about what we didn’t like. However, what matters now is our future response. If we stop trying to find our passions, we automatically fail.

It’s okay not to know. But it’s not okay not to try. Set up an appointment with a Careers Advisor and share bravely about your struggles.

So today, what are the three things you can do to better elucidate your future path? Firstly, borrow Bolles’ ‘What Color is Your Parachute’ and diligently work through the exercises. Secondly, start asking ‘why’, instead of how or what. Lastly, meet a Careers Advisor and be honest.

“One of the saddest lines in the world is, ‘Oh come now – be realistic.’ The best parts of this world were not fashioned by those who were realistic. They were fashioned by those who dared to look hard at their wishes and gave them horses to ride.”

— Richard Nelson Bolles

John writes regularly at www.gutenhag.com.

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